Techno-Prepper Notebook: SatWX Direct

Earlier this week I went into (excruciatingly boring) detail about how to set up a computer, ham radio receiver or transceiver (set on the widest bandwidth you can find)  and then directly capture satellite images on the lash-up.

Peoplenomics readers got to peek at one of the first black and white (composite) images Wednesday.  And here is a Thursday pass from NOASA 19 showing visible moisture.

SatWX Direct Urban Survival

The + on Texas is the ranch lat/lon.  Black areas over Louisiana and the GRV are drop outs in signal.

The imagery is not yet “dialed-in” to what I’m ultimately going for.  At some point I will roll from the narrow band ham rig onto a customized software-defined radio (SDR) with a specialized low-noise weather downlink pre-amp, and the quadrifillar antenna for circularly polarized direct reception.

After this little project is up, I may take some time and do a write-up on using your FTA (free-to-air) satellite rig in order to pull down data direct from the NOAA GOES – which are the geosynchronous birds.

There have some pluses and minuses.  Pluses include constant availability.  The polar orbiting satellites give us only 2-3 images per day because of the progressive nature of their paths.

Minuses include more difficult alignment of the antenna and more complexity overall.  But then you get higher resolution…so it should be an interesting comparison.

A couple of readers were asking about EMP impacting the satellites.

Remember that the evolution of the EMP pulse depends on particles striking the earth’s upper atmosphere.  Since the satellites are outside of that, they are less prone to issues.

Also remember that at any time the odds of all three polar birds being front-side (over the US) is very low.

Third factor is that the bulk of EMP energy is from the 500 KHz range (far left side of the AM radio band) on up to about 10 Megahertz;  Then the energy in an EMP burst rolls off quickly.

The critical thing to appreciate is that the EMP damage is done by high voltage laying down on very long pieces of wire.  One wavelength of antenna at 10 MHzx where the energy roll off begins is almost 50 feet.

You get up to where the weather satellites are (137.1 MHz for my fave) and there is far less energy.  Don’t forget the inverse-square law, either:  Double the distance means a quarter of the field density.

Down at 1 MHz, you’re talking about a 450-foot wavelength right about where energy will be peaking and that’s a common distance in power lines.

We are huge fans of 12 and 24 volt high current/multiple-strike transient voltage protectors (TVS) which you can order from

Tuning should improve when the new computer arrives and I can chase down a hum issue on the receiver audio line which is also slowing down progress.

Just aren’t enough hours in the day…even at 67, lol.  Hell, ain’t we supposed to be edging toward a rocking chair, or some-such?

Maybe that’s what weekends are for….

Cheap-O Solar Panel Mounts

Gather round the picture-box, kiddies, as Grandpa George explains how to make a perfectly serviceable adjustable Solar Panel Tack for next to zero money.

Want to hold panels at home but also want to get them ready for bug out in a short time if you need to? Check.

This brainchild was birthed in 2007 (or was it ’06?) when we put up the front rack of panels.


As you can see, the panels have several interesting attributes.

First is the main construction ingredient is plain old farm Tee-Post.

You lay the T-posts out in what looks like a straight line.

Stomp them into the Earth with a fence post hammer which is just a slide of 4 or 4” metal with a big weight on top of it. Do the back row first.

You will drive these anywhere from 3-6 feet apart (depending on how much sag of 5/8th’s rebar you can tolerate. I went about every four feet, or so.

The next task is to level the back row. I have a couple of ways to do this: Long 2-by-4 will do fine. So does a string level between the two end posts being set to level so you just match up everything in between.

Then you set your front row – exactly in front of the back row.

How high should this row be? You’ll need a protractor to get this right: Take your latitude (the how far of north number which for us is 32) and add the Tropic of Capricorn to it: 23.44 degrees. So for us 55-56 degrees works.

So that’s how far down your two end T-posts are driven. After that you drive in the others, or if that’s too much work (ever put 2 feet of T-post into Texas iron soil?) Whack off a foot, or so, with a metal cutting chop saw. It save time, and thus energy, and thus beer.

Now we get out the rebar (reinforcing steel which can be had at about any lumber yard in this quadrant of the galaxy). Using your super-strong welding magnets, position the top bar and weld both ends AFTER bending them to vertical.

Next, you weld the rest of the top bar on while holding these vertical as well.

The bottom row is then eye-balled into left /right position. Then you measure from the bottom of the back to the bottom of the front. Say it’s 15-inches. Cut a piece of ¼” rebar —in fact cut one for each post while you’re at it — and position and weld in place.

Now place and weld the front top rail in place.

Warning: Rebar is not particularly robust. Tends to rust like the very devil. So get some quality high zinc content paint and prime the hell out of the T-posts and rebar. Paint like mad. Don’t worry about tarps and some of that city-slicker crap. The paint may keep down the weed and in any event isn’t likely visible in 3-4 months.

clip_image003_thumbIt should look something like this if you set a panel on it holding the lower side up:

After lunch (or a good night’s sleep) to let the paint dry, you are ready to put on the panels.

This is the height of simplicity: We used galvanized ¾” conduit clamps. Stainless screw and nut top and bottom. See the clamps to the panels in the left here?


May not be pretty, but it’s easy to remove in a pinch.

Now, when the panels are lowered so that they rest on the bottom rail, that’s your winter position. Shown in the picture above, you can use whatever is handy (I used PVC pipe) and you measure each panel so that the summer setting is “about right.”

That leaves only one annual chore: Around the first of October and April Fools, I try to remember to change the panel supports. Three legs in summer, all rails in winter.

I know…someone is going to ask a silly question like “Ain’tcha ‘fraid sum-un ‘ll steal ‘em?”

Remedial reading over here and make sure you don’t get blinded by the purple tree markings.

Not just in Texas but even liberal states like Illinois are switching to the purple defense.

Next time around, purple posts maybe?

Write when you get rich(er)


Techno-Prepper Notebook: SatWX Direct — 12 Comments

  1. George,

    You should put a Share button on here for Facebook. You have some interesting ideas that might draw you in some additional viewers (subscribers).

  2. “We are huge fans of 12 and 24 volt high current/multiple-strike transient voltage protectors (TVS) which you can order…”

    Any chance for a write-up about how to select proper TV equipment for vehicle batteries (standard and deep-cycle) or point to a reliable resource on such? Seems like one would need to be an electrical engineer to understand how to select the right components to do the TV protection right.

    Thanks for consideration.

  3. Or you could have bought the biggest metal gate you can find at your local co-op and attach one into a post and the other end you put a wheel on it and attach all your solar panels across there .
    Then design or buy a sun tracking system that attaches to the gate and follows the sun with the motorized battery powered motor that turns the wheel to follow the Sun and at the end of the day it returns to its East
    The angle of the panels can have an adjustment at the bottom of the gate for summer and winter settings.
    And for those of you just starting out with solar with a small panel find the new office swivel chair and place your panel in it and just once or twice a day rotated to follow the sun to get maximum solar power from your little solo panel

    • That was supposed to be old Office swivel chair,

      My solar system only has 660 watts, that’s enough to keep my freezer freezing my vegetable seeds and to keep my beer good and cold My vision is to buy the ingredients to make my own beer , have a good day. Slurp ah

  4. much simpler to have one of these… i made a very inconvenient trip to an isolated place where a trusted old friend has built one and uses it to power his unusual home. many others have succeeded as well, even using materials as simple as plywood. magnets are the key. not sure there will be enough neodynium to put one in every household, but just getting into it and understanding how the vortex works is a good beginning.
    follow up with “the energy evolution” by viktor schauberger. he was the guy who developed the german flying disc. more on the vortex.

    a finished generator could fit in your trunk. i will be running my boat electrics with it… twin electric outboards.

    have fun.


  5. Thanks for that post about Illinois: I had always wondered how much property the Feds owned.
    And I would hasten to add: Chicago has most of the liberals- Republican candidates take nearly every county in the entire state except Cook/collar counties. A laughable redistricting zone (which didnt pass) was in the shape of a peace sign or chicken foot, in an attempt to make one voting district connecting the south sides of 4 cities that were hundreds of miles apart. A lot of us want to cut off Illinois’ borders at I-80.

  6. Wow! Who knew? NM desperately needs the purple defense. Removing “No Trespassing” signs is a pastime here for both bored humans and strong winds.

    George, since you’re a retired politician(or at least ran for office), perhaps you have some suggestions on how to push for this law locally. Ideally it would be a state law, but perhaps it should be started as a county ordinance, since the state takes longer. Meanwhile, there’s no harm in doing the paint thing anyway, for the more informed and law abiding.

    Thanks for the details on the solar mounts.

  7. Hmmm. Audio humming. Power supply caps? Ground loops? Induced AC from power line coupling? The list is endless. Also once had weird interactions once with an electric fence charger. Lots of toroids helped. Unfortunately I need the electric fence because one of our donkeys (Betsy the brat) is too smart for her own good and easily bored. 750 pounds of mischief is hard to fence.

    James Johnson, ex-nuke

    • a couple doors down from me a landowner has a donkey and 6 Cows young ones I think the donkey find a way for them to escape and then they go to my next door neighbor’s cows and go over there and eat and the only thing I think that keeps that donkey away from my place is my dogs because when I didn’t have my dogs out I have had cows come over here,once my brother came out to camp out here and one morning he woke up to cows surrounding his tent that was funny he took some photos of that but that was an experience ,so here I am with all these cows in my backyard. ,And took a 20 ft PVC pipe to herd them back to their space,life in the country has many stories